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Highs and lows of Gareth Southgate’s reign ahead of 100th England game

Gareth Southgate will take charge of his 100th England game on Saturday.

The England boss brings up his century against Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 in Dusseldorf.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the highs and lows of Southgate’s reign.

Highs

Southgate you’re the one…

England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates victory after the World Cup quarter-final win over Sweden in 2018. (Owen Humphreys/PA)
England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates victory after the World Cup quarter-final win over Sweden in 2018. (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Archive)

After a number of disappointing tournament performances, culminating in the Euro 2016 last-16 exit at the hands of Iceland, the relationship between the England team and their supporters was at a low ebb.

Southgate came in to replace Sam Allardyce in November 2016 and as well as improving things on the pitch, the former England defender set about repairing relations off of it.

The players and staff were serenaded during the 2018 World Cup in Russia as they went on a run to the semi-finals, with the nation once again embracing the national team.

Pen pals

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia’s Carlos Bacca during the FIFA World Cup 2018 (Aaron Chown/PA)
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia’s Carlos Bacca during the FIFA World Cup 2018 (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Archive)

As a player, Southgate won 57 senior caps but will ultimately be most remembered for missing a crucial penalty in the shootout defeat to Germany in the semi-final of Euro 96.

After being chastised for his miss, Southgate addressed England’s woeful shootout record when taking over as manager.

Other than beating Spain at Euro 96, England had lost six of their seven shootouts at major tournaments but Southgate’s side would eventually turn the tide, seeing off Colombia 4-3 at the 2018 World Cup and following that up with victory over Switzerland on spot-kicks to secure the bronze medal at the inaugural Nations League a year later.

While the mentality had clearly shifted, penalties would still come back to haunt Southgate as England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy after a shootout.

Taking the knee

England players take a knee ahead of the 2022 World Cup fixture against Iran. (Adam Davy/PA)
England players take a knee ahead of the 2022 World Cup fixture against Iran. (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)

Southgate has been always strong on the need for his players to take the knee against discrimination ahead of kick-off for a number of matches.

The pre-match gesture was booed by England fans in Euro 2020 warm-up friendlies at the Riverside Stadium but Southgate always defended the need to show support.

“It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time,” he said after it was confirmed England would continue to take the knee at the 2022 World Cup.

The situation was one of several issues Southgate has faced during his reign that did not relate to on-pitch detail but which he addressed in a level-headed way.

Lows

Foden and Greenwood break lockdown rules

England’s Mason Greenwood (left) and Phil Foden during a training session at St George’s Park (Mike Egerton/PA)
England’s Mason Greenwood (left) and Phil Foden during a training session at St George’s Park (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Archive)

As the world came to terms with the coronavirus pandemic, football returned and so did the Nations League – with England travelling to face Iceland.

With the nation struggling with lockdown regulations, Southgate was forced to take a firm decision and send home Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood following a “very serious” violation of strict coronavirus protocols.

The pair had made their senior debuts against Iceland but Southgate took no prisoners. “It was brought to my attention that two boys have broken Covid guidelines in terms of our secure bubble and so we had to decide very quickly that they couldn’t have any interaction with the team,” he said.

Euro 2020 final sees players abused

England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho after his penalty miss against Italy (Nick Potts/PA)
England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho after his penalty miss against Italy (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

Southgate and his players were left crestfallen by their Euro 2020 heartbreak but the manager also had to rally around Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

The trio all missed in the shootout and were targets of racial abuse on social media, fracturing a relationship that had been improving year on year under Southgate.

“For some of them to be abused is unforgivable,” Southgate said.

“Some of it has come from abroad, we have been told this, but some of it is from this country.

“We have been a beacon of light to bring people together and the national team stands for everybody. We felt the energy and positivity from the fans and I’m incredibly proud of that.”

‘You don’t know what you’re doing’

England manager Gareth Southgate appears dejected during the Nations League game with Hungary (Nick Potts/PA)
England manager Gareth Southgate appears dejected during the Nations League game with Hungary (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

The first time Southgate faced mass criticism inside a stadium came at Molineux as Hungary doled out a shock thrashing in June 2022.

A Roland Sallai brace had the visitors deservedly ahead and a long-range Zsolt Nagy effort secured the win before John Stones was sent off in the second half and Daniel Gazdag’s goal added the gloss.

The 4-0 reverse was a second loss to Hungary in 10 days and was England’s worst home defeat since 1928, with Southgate jeered for much of the second half as chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” rang around the stands.

England went on to be relegated to League B of the Nations League, failing to win any of their six games in a group that also contained Italy and Germany.

Southgate labelled it a “chastening night” as the nation’s backing he had largely enjoyed since the 2018 World Cup wavered in the West Midlands.

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